Co.Design

Can Minuum Kill The QWERTY Keyboard?

What happens when you rebuild the QWERTY keyboard as a single row of type? A whole lot, actually.

The QWERTY keyboard is a technological cockroach, an 1880s invention that’s resisted the evolution of PCs, laptops, smartphones and even touch-screen smartphones. It’s not the fastest or most efficient way to type—that designation belongs to Dvorak or Colemak—but almost every sophisticated communications device you own is hiding a QWERTY, somewhere.

Minuum is an IndieGoGo project that asks a simple question: Why? Why is the QWERTY, and its three fat rows of type shaped for our rounded digits, still so ubiquitous in the thumb-dominant digital era? They suggest an 20/20 hindsight alternative, a one-line keyboard that frees up quite a bit of space on your phone.

But this can’t work. Right? We can’t type legibly with a mere line of text. I’m not so sure. Touch screens have only gotten more accurate since the iPhone was released. Backed by a liberal dose of autocorrect—assuming their logic is very good—Minuum just might work.

Besides, it’s the alternate use cases that make Minuum so appealing. By reshaping the keyboard into what’s essentially a horizontal line, typing becomes an open API capable of gesture support. Suddenly you can type with swipes and twists rather than mere taps and presses. Any idea that you can somehow map to a line becomes ripe for type.

So will Minuum take over the world? It’s hard to imagine any alternative dominating so long as Apple won’t even acknowledge the general superiority of systems like Swype. Plus, hands-free alternatives like voice recognition are getting better every day. All the same, we need ideas like Minuum questioning the status quo. Because type isn’t language and keyboard layout isn’t grammar, we can afford to experiment in this space.

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